State of the Union

Obama's Sinking SOTU Ratings: Tune In, Turn Off, Watch Netflix Instead

Barack Obama's ratings for his annual State of the Union Addresses have gone down like the Titanic. What's behind the slide? Anger and disappointment mostly.

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Later tonight, at 9 P.M. ET, President Obama will deliver his seventh State of the Union Address (SOTU). Join us here for live-tweeting and blogging of the speech!

If trends continue, this one will be watched by even fewer people than the last one, and the one before that.

Like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or Duck Dynasty, the SOTU is a reality television offering that has been battered by scandal, longevity, and viewer boredom. Obama's first SOTU, in 2009, pulled a massive 32.5 Neilsen rating (meaning almost one-third of households were tuned in) and over 55 million people watched. Since then, it's been nothing but down. In 2014, Obama could only manage a 20.7 rating and and only just over 33 million of us could be bothered to watch him say "There are those…"

What explains the slide in ratings? All sorts of things, including the continuing explosion of entertainment options. But certainly much of the slide is attributable to the lost luster of the Obama presidency. Has there been a recent president who promised so much and disappointed so many? Sure, reliable Democrats such as Jonathan Chait at New York and Paul Krugman at The New York Times have already sanctified Obama faster than the current pope can sanctify his predecessor. But as The Week's Ryan Cooper notes, even diehard Democrats have to gloss over Obama's terrible foreign policy and civil liberties records while padding the count on supposed economic victories (good stimulus or best stimulus are the two options for pro-Obama folks).

While it's true that there are no failed two-term presidents (even Nixon can lord his re-election over the likes of H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter), it's equally clear that folks get tired of that man in the White House, whether his last name is Clinton, Bush, or Obama. But especially when he's as sanctimonious as Obama, who's still promising the most transparent administration ever. As Business Insider's Henry Blodgett noted back in 2012, Obama did a very bad job of "managing expectations" of the economy. Actually, the economy has gone sideways in many important ways under Obama (such as the labor participation rate, which is limping along like it's 1977).

Depending on who you're talking to and to what end, you might brag on how Obama's raised taxes on the rich or how inequality has grown on his watch; that he's the greatest friend Wall Street ever had or that he's finally sticking up for the little guy; and on and on. That his wars are smart compared to Bush's, and on and on. But unless your yardstick is "things could be a lot worse," it's easy to see why even many Obama diehards have lost faith and interest in the man. Indeed, even on the issue of health care, Obama's record is meh at best. Yes, the number of uninsured has come down in recent years but according to The New York Times, government is also spending a record 46 percent of health collars and we're going to be spending 19.3 percent of GDP on health care in 2023. In 2013, that figure was 17 percent.

Asking the question: Obama—Great President or Greatest President? seems a bit premature, to say the least.

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